It's been thirty years since the discovery of the AIDS virus, and while they've included immeasurable tragedy, there are some reasons to be optimistic.
First: Reasons to be depressed! Some facts from several UN agencies' updated report on global HIV/AIDS data, via Reuters:
- The number of girls aged 10-14 living with HIV grew from about 50,000 in 1999 to more than 300,000 in 2010.
- In southern Africa, young women are up to five times more likely to become infected with HIV than young men.
- Young women aged 15-24 account for 26 percent of all new HIV infections globally.
A separate CDC report found that between 2006 and 2008, the number of people living with HIV grew by about 71,000, though not all of it was due to new infections; people with HIV are living longer than ever anticipated.
Indeed, a cover story in the Economist notes the dismal numbers overall, including 25 million dead over the past 30 years, but adds,
The war on AIDS is going far better than anyone dared hope. A decade ago, half of the people in several southern African countries were expected to die of AIDS. Now, the death rate is dropping. In 2005 the disease killed 2.1m people. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, the number was 1.8m. Some 5m lives have already been saved by drug treatment. In 33 of the worst-affected countries the rate of new infections is down by 25% or more from its peak.
That success, says the magazine, is "thanks to an alliance of science, activism and altruism." But there's plenty of work yet to be done.
You can read the full report here.